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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  December 8, 2010 12:00am-1:00am PST

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>> rose: welcome to our program. we but again this evening with a look at the bush tax cuts and the compromise between the president and the republicans. we continue with a conversation about literature with nicole krauss, author of "great house." we conclude with the director florian henckel von donnersmarck whose new film is called "the tourist" starring angelina jolie and johnny depp. an agreement on taxes, a conversation about novels, and how to put together a new movie, next. exposure to the arts. maybe you want to provide meals for the needy. or maybe you want to help when the unexpected happens. whatever you want to do, members project from american express can help you take the first step. vote, volunteer, or donate for the causes you believe in
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at membersproject.com. take charge of making a difference. additional funding provided by these funders: captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: we begin by looking at the tax support between the president and republicans. the president agreed to extend the bush-era tax cuts for at least the next two years. the plan offers a series of generous tax breaks to the private sector and wealthy individuals while preserving unemployment benefits through 2011. the president has been under pressure to remain firm on not extending the cuts.
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he explained why compromise was necessary during a news conference earlier today. >> a long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the american people. my responsibility as president is to do what's right for the american people. that's a responsibility i intend to uphold as long as i'm in this office. this country was founded on compromise. i couldn't go through the front door when this country was founded. and if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a union. so my job is to make sure that we have a north star out there. what is helping the american people live out their lives. what is giving them more opportunity? what is growing the economy? what is making us more competitive? and at any given juncture there are going to be times where my
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preferred option, what i'm absolutely positive is right, i can't get done. and so then my question is does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or tack a little bit that way because i'm keeping my eye on the long term. and the long fight. not my day to day news cycle, but where am i going over the long term? >> rose: joining me in new york is ken rogoff, a professor of economics at harvard. from washington, d.c., al hunt, executive editor of bloomberg news. congressman anthony weiner, democrat from new york and congresswoman jan schakowsky, democrat from illinois. i am pleased to have all of them here. i begin with al hunt. why did the president do this? what does it sflept and what are the consequences, al? >> well, he did it because he felt he had no choice, charlie, because otherwise the tax cuts, he felt, were going to expire which could have been disastrous for the economy. i don't think there's any question that they should have cut some kind of a deal.
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the question that critics i suspect we'll hear from in the show is s could they have give an better sdmel the answer certainly would have been yes before the election. after november 2 it was very hard and what they basically found... what both sides found out is that the other side was willing to give a lot more than they thought. >> rose: so therefore both sides could have made a better deal? >> well, i don't know that the republicans could have because they got exactly what they want. they were willing to give up a lot more on unemployment compensation and refundable tax credits and the like and what obama did was, of course, give in on the estate tax and on the upper-tier tax cuts. it was always the clear some upper-tier tax cuts were going to be extended and the key issue was could you decouple them. the white house didn't handle it very well but i will say congress botched this up. both the house and senate leadership did not schedule any votes before the election which i think was a catastrophic political mistake on the democrats' point of view. >> rose: does this somehow represent what the next two years are going to be about? >> well, yes, good and bad, i
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suppose. john podesta said it does and he said it's what keeps him awake at night because there will be lots of concessions. i think this is a little bit sui generis in that the tax cuts were about to expire and both sides had a gun to their head. no one wants that for-to-happen for most americans facing a tax increase on january 2. there won't be many issues like that and i think that this suggests there's going to be a lot of common ground kov compromise, cave-ins, whatever one wants to call it is probably an exaggeration. >> well, i certainly am concerned that we're especially i think the one that gives heartburn the most to the democrats is the fact that we did the estate tax. that we actually lowered the rate to 35% and made it for multimillionaires. that was really adding insult to injury. i think many democrats-- and we're going to be having a caucus tonight-- are offended by
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the deal that was made and our leadership has said that actually there is there isn't any deal right now because we're going to be discussing how to proceed in the house. but, you know, one of the things that really bothers me is an untalked about threat to our economy, and that is the growing disparity in income where the top 1% control 34% of the wealth in our country. more than the bottom 90%. and it seems to me that deals like this just exacerbate that. and it's bad for our democracy. bad for our economy. and i think a it will until recognize that we have to deal with-- and this certainly makes it worse. >> the substance of the deal, there's some good things, there are some bad things, but it's usually in this town with the president you state what you believe, you fight for it forcefully and then the deal becomes the thing at the end that you do. this time i must have missed something, because i didn't see the fight. i didn't see the waging of a
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fullout campaign explaining why it is that it's fundamentally unfair to add literally hundreds of balls of dollars to the deficit to provide tax cuts for billionaires. there is a concern i have that that, you know, that president obama himself today said oh, why is everyone complaining? this reminds me of what the debate was over the public option. some people are never happy. yeah, it's very similar to me, too, that we seem to find the president negotiate somehow against ourselves. let's remember what this is about. this isn't about who wins and who loses in this deal, it's about what's going on to the american public. the idea has to be that our party and hopefully our president is everyday fighting for the middle-class and those struggling to make it. all too often it seems like this is not something we do out of aspiration, we do transactions and maybe... look, compromise is not a vice, doing deals is the way washington operates, i understand that. but there is really a sense among many of my constituents and many of my colleagues that this was a deal made with a whimper rather than a bang.
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>> rose: so where do you go from here? >> well, i think first of all there's a question about whether or not we have the votes to pass this. i think a lot of us want to see the nuts and bolts of it. i really think to some degree-- and maybe its machiavellian of me to believe this-- i think that the white house wanted to get a second stimulus and this turned out to be kind of like it. it is $900 billion of unpaid for funding. but i've got to tell you, i don't think it was a particularly good deal. i don't think we got what we should have. and i think now we are starting to see a trend. maybe not for the next two years but we've now seen it for the last two years. we make compromises on stimulus, we make compromises on health care, we make compromises on taxes, all of which are... weaken the final product and all of which make it less fair for the middle-class and those struggling to make it. >> and i wouldn't be surprised if discussed by... disgust by the democrats is adding on the this agreement $250 to send to the seniors who haven't seen a cost of living adjustment in their social security for two
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years now. who are really struggling to pay their prescription drug costs and other expenses that they have. we would like the see the doors open a little bit for us to not necessarily renegotiate all of it but to see if there are some more sweeteners for the majority of americans. and the president noted that today, the majority of americans are very concerned-- and he, too-- about giving more tax cuts for the wealthiest americans. this is something he was not for still isn't for but felt that he had to do it. well, let's see if we can make a slightly better deal at the very least. >> rose: what did you know that the rest of us didn't know? >> well, i think they're looking at a slow economy for a couple of years. there has to be some stimulus, and given the shift and the makeup of congress, it's going to be tax cuts and not increases in spending. so i had thought they'd go beyond the bush tax cuts. i think this is the opening salvo in the negotiation.
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by the way, charlie, i think this is a very pragmatic decision. they need to do something. the economy is still grinding away. they need some way to sort of slow down the rate stimulus is coming out of it and i don't understand why there has to be a tax break for the wealthiest americans. i totally sympathize with what congressman and congresswoman are saying. it's very hard to explain the politics, don't ask me. do you need it for economy? no, i don't think so. although i would say there are a lot of business people who just feel obama's against them. and everything he does is against them. and there's a certain confidence building to this in the short run, i suppose. but they did need to strike a deal, the winds are blowing this way politically. you can't wait a year to get this done. so i thought it was okay. i can't explain why the wealthiest got this break. >> rose: what compromise would have satisfied you, reluctantly satisfied you? >> charlie, my critique is we
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didn't even have... he was compromising with kind of this... it just kind of happened all at once. there was not the full-throated fight. and by the way the president and mr. hunt are right. i think congress did not... we didn't handle this very well. to some degree we in the house were waiting for go doe and waiting for the senate to act on anything, we eventually decided what's the purpose of going ahead with anything when they kill everything. but i think what a lot of people want and the critique of the president that is absolutely fair is the president loses sight sometimes of the fact that he was elected to fight for certain values and certain principles. i think that everyone understands and all of us understand that sometimes that that means giving a little bit. that is fundamental bedrock element of what he was elected was to restore some fairness, as jan pointed out. to restore a sense that the middle-class have something coming to them. you know, it might be that this investment tax credit for business is very good. but the most middle-class families and people struggling to get into the middle-class, they look at this deal and say "boy, oh, boy, this looks a lot
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like the tax cuts that president bush would have given." and that's the fight that never really took hold. and i also think something else. i think the president too often sees the vote count in the world as a static thing. he says okay, i don't have the votes to let me go about the idea of compromising. but he needs to realize part of his job as president is to go out and move the needle on these things. try to lead us to a place where we understood that tax cuts for the middle-class is smart, tax cuts for very rich people is dumb. >> rose: what about if it was a million dollars, that was the cutoff. would you have bought in then? >> i preferred that. i think there's reason to extend the tax cuts to all businesses. again, i think there was room... there was room to move here and i do believe that, frankly, none of that really happened. i think that the republicans got a very good deal here. they got a big tax cut package. jan is absolutely right. the estate tax piece was over the top. and now here we are. by the way, i don't want to hear a single one of my republican colleagues complain for the rest
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of this session about deficit after they pushed so hard for this deficit-busting bill. >> well, let me comment on that, because no sooner did the president have his press conference but senator john thune says "well, what we need to do now is get to work on spending cuts." that's... sounds to me like an absolute double whammy, then, for middle-class people. where are those spending cuts that he has in mind? i think it's exactly those kinds of programs that like college... help with college tuition or medical research or job training things that absolutely help middle-class people help our country, that they're going to target next. so they're shameless about that. you know, give us these huge tax cuts that add to the deficit and now we'll be able to cut the size of government. and that's what i worry about is their agenda. but i also want to say that i think rather than certainty, what businesses need are customers. and so i would have preferred to
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see more investment. you know, everyone's afraid now at the administration to talk about stimulus. the stimulus actually did work. we need more stimulus but it's not going to come from giving tax cuts to the wealthiest and certainly not through the changes in the estate tax. >> rose: what does the rejection of the deficit commission... one second, al. the rejection of the deficit commission and this vote say about where we're heading? >> well, it's not encouraging. if i were a chinese creditor holding $2 trillion, i would wonder about this. i mean i think the deficit commission made some great suggestions. we have to improve our tax system because they're going to have to go up. and we need a broader base and less deductions. they made a lot of good suggestions. and instead that's been pushed off and we have this tax cut. >> rose: so china and other countries who hold our debt are going to look at this and say "the americans just don't have the political will to deal with their economy"? >> they're going to be patient with us. they really are. because they don't have any
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place to go. what are they going to do, invest in europe right now? but clearly we have to face... push push the problems down the road it makes them worse. everybody's talking about the deficit, it's true. >> rose: but, al, some argue that the republicans because now because of this compromise have taken responsibility in part for the economy. >> oh, i think as long as there's a democratic president that he is going to have primary responsibility for the economy. if his health... if it gets good he will be the beneficiary. but i talked to people in these negotiations. the one thing the republicans cared about the most, the one thing they went to the very end for, was the estate tax, making it more generous. that affects, charlie, one tenth of one percent of the richest americans. it was clear republicans would give up their first and second born to get the estate tax benefit they got. so i think congressmen are right on that. however, what they totally have ignored is as bob greenstein and
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others point out there are a lot of things that are good for working poor people in here. refundable tax credits. payroll tax cuts. those... that's not chicken feed stuff, that's stuff that matters. i wouldn't defend some of the things they gave away on either side, but that stuff is not as irrelevant as the two members of congress have suggested. >> rose: there are a number of things on our side of the bargain that are very good. the question is did we have to make those kinds of tradeoffs in order to get them? no doubt about it. the stimulus for the economy, the tax credits for low-income people, the fact we're not going to raise taxes for people under $200,000. these are very positive things. but the question we have, did we have to do this wholesale giveaway to the wealthiest americans in order to achieve it? the president thinks that we did
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>> what i don't understand is the congress shifts starting in a month and so isn't time on the republicans' side if the president bargains around and dithers? >> well, can i take that? that assumes for a moment that the president has this terrible unpopular thing he's trying to sell. if you list many of the things of us in congress wanted-- unemployment insurance, cuts for people in the true middle-class, $250,000 or less, we've got the popular position. the top 1% of many t american people... very few people watching this show... well, maybe this show people are getting at the estate tax. (laughter) but we're fighting for the things the american people want and yet the president as acting as if he's bargaining from a position of weakness. like, you know, the description that was just given is very apt. all these things are good and then things these are too old bad. too bad he had to go along with it because the congress is changing. that assumes the president doesn't have the ability to get up and say "i'm going to fight for the ngs that are right around here and i'm going to try
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to lead this campaign and i believe if you turn up the heat on the republicans, they will fold because they have an unpopular position." >> rose: how do you know the president didn't fight as hard as he could? that's the point, isn't he? he did everything he could! >> well, everything he could. i don't know, maybe i missed it, charlie. where was the big standing up and fighting? traveling to states around that country saying "call your senator and tell him to give you a middle-class tax cut." where was that type of presidential leadership? once again the president is exactly right. it's evocative of health care. before any conversation is begun there's a deal with drug companies, a deal on the public option. the president seems to have this notion that bipolarship is an ends rather than a mean... bipartisanship is an ends rather than a mean. in this case, i don't remember, maybe you saw a big fight over this issue before i did, i think a lot of things people are responding to is we were hoping the president would get in there roll up his sleeves and fight for the middle-class values of his constituents and instead he basically said i'm going to give
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you these six or seven offensive things in exchange for my six or seven good things. >> i agree with the congressman but what i want to know is where were the congressional democrats last july, last august, last september? i think the complaints about the president are perfectly justified but where were harry sflooed where was nancy pelosi? why didn't they bring this up for a vote in september? if they wanted to join this issue, if the congressman wants to take it to the people, there was something called a national election. democrats forfeited that possibility. >> we did hear at that time from john boehner saying that if there were only tax cuts for the middle-class he would have to go along. and someone must have slapped him and he woke up and said "no, that wasn't true." but i think we should have taken him up on that offer. having said that, i think the president even now would not have had to fight that battle alone. i do think he would have nancy pelosi and harry reid at his side saying that democrats do stand up for the middle-class
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and the demands of the republicans are simply unreasonable and it might have ended up differently. we might not have had to make that compromise on the estate tax, for example. >> rose: congressman weiner? >> well, i just want to say that there is no substitute for full-throated muscular presidential leadership? a debate like this. yes, nancy pelosi could have scheduled on the floor. i mean, but we watched what happened when the president went 60 months during health care kind of not really tells us what he wants. there's no substitute. the president has to realize he has many arrows in his quiver. he's got to start leading this debate. he's got to start showing he's fighting for these things. should we have had a vote? you can argue it either way. we in the hou voted for a lot of things in the last two years that died in the senate. ben franklin said the senate is the cooling saucer of democracy. heck, it's the meat locker of democracy the last couple years. so maybe we should have done one more vote to try to push them. i think we needed the president then, we need him today. we need him to start acting like the national leader of the
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debate here, not the negotiator in chief. >> rose: all right, let me ask you this question. can the president count on your support when he runs for reelection? >> well, if you're asking me, absolutely. i'm going to be there. i was a co-chair of his campaign and i think all democrats understand that it is essential that the president be reelected. we want to put him in the absolute best position in order to create enthusiasm not only among our base but the vast majority of americans who want to see that the middle-class is his top priority and i think so what the suggestions that we're making actually will help him win the election. >> rose: congressman weiner, you'll support the president when he runs for reelection? >> let me say this clearly because the white house has been very upset at some of the things i've said recently. i want them to succeed. the advice and critique i'm giving them, i'm not coming from the same place as mitch mcconnell that want him to be a failurement people like jan and
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me and other people in the party, we dispiritly want him to succeed. that's the voice i'm speaking from. he's going to be a two-term president because he's going to adopt the fighting wing of the democratic party and of course i support him. i want them to do a better job. i'm not critiquing him because i think he's a miserable failure, i'm critiquing him because every time you do one of these fights and it looks like you're weak, it makes it harder to prosecute phenomenon the future. >> rose: >> it seems like he made a pragmatic decision. he's reading the polls, looking forward to 2012, looking at the economy which needs stimulus. seems like a reasonable thing to do under difficult circumstances >> rose: you know a lot of sources in washington. did he fight for? the central complaint of congressman weiner. >> could he have fought for another three days and got an different sdmel the whole thing about the tax rates for the wealthy just mystifys me. i have no idea why there's so much support. i think americans support it more than you think.
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that's what election results show. people think they're going to be rich someday and they'll told "you'll get taxed when you're rich" and they vote against in the a way that people in sweden and other countries don't. >> rose: that's the reason the lottery works. >> i guess. >> actually, that's not the case. the polling is very clear that the american people side with the middle-class tax cuts and are not in favor of the top. >> rose: thank you very much. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> rose: we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: nicole krauss is here, she is one of the most critically acclaimed young novelists around anywhere. her third novel "great house" was recently nominated for a national book award. the "new york times" called the book "a high-wire performance only the wire has been replaced by an exposed nerve and you hold your breath and she does not fail." i'm pleased to have nicole krauss at this table for the first time. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: you just told me that for a two-week period in 1995
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you were an intern on this program. >> i was and i have fond memories of it, brief as it was. >> rose: so tell me how, having done "the history of love" you came to this book. how were you shaped by it? what did you want to accomplish? in one case you had a book and this case you have a desk. sufficient multiple characters. they there's connective tissue there in which there's stories and a narrative. >> well, you discover something about how your mind works and this is my third book so i knew by now starting out that what interested me, the way i like to write, is to really become lost. so in a way the more voices, the more stories within stories, the more possibility there is to discover things, to lose my way but then sort of find myself surprised. so i began writing lots of different stories, characters in very, very different places in
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time and space and you know i started as a poet and, of course, the basic unit of the poem is the metaphor and a metaphor is thrilling because it's two very, very remote things that when they form a third thing, when a bridge is formed between them, there's this amazing... we love them because it gives an illusion that all things are connected somehow. that many things have meaning and i think i write like that. i love to take these stories and make metaphors out of them. to make these underground connections, echoes, symmetries, joints that hold the hole together. so i started knowing that about myself. >> rose: you also have said i think in an interview that i read that a lot of novels are about memory. >> one is often told what one's books are about because readers have a sense of that in a way that you know they give you a reflection. >> rose: and for them it's look
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like looking at a piece of art. it's true. how they see it is their own thing, not yours. >> and i think that's absolutely right. a book is a conversation and i think it's 50% of the author and 50% of the reader and you meet in the middle. but i guess what i would say about memory is i would wish somehow to shift that a little to say that i'm interested particularly in the remembering mind. and what i mean by that is i've always thought from my first novel which is about a man who loses 24 years of his memories and has to start a new life, these make a coherence out of what's left, i've always thought that memory is a kind of imaginative act, that it's a willful act. when you think about how we look back on our lives, yeah, we willfully cancel vast portions of it and choose to illuminate singular moments in order to create a narrative. but it's something of a fictional narrative and i think something of that inventiveness of memory has always moved and interested me. so my books, all three of them, have been about memories, it's been about that particular
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interest. >> rose: so what does the book and "the history of love" and "the desk" what do they stand? >> the book within in the book in "the history of love"? well, i've always ban great reader, i love reading and i think naturally they're going to be about literature, about books i've loved and have affected me. in "the history of love" you have this lost book within a book" which nobody reads and just goes unpublished except for a very, very few copies. >> rose: and it passes among the characters. >> those who find it, it changes their lives in some way and it connects them, moves them toward each other and i think this hopeful sense of the ways in which literature can connect us so that was that's what that book within the book was for me. i think writing in "great house" is different. i've moved the angle, shifted the lens. as much as the literature is that perhaps more about the
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communicating, how difficult is. how much we want to be understood but how that hard is. >> rose: what does the desk represent? >> the desk represents so many things. some people ask me why duds it have 19 drawers? i say it somehow accumulated drawers as it accumulates meaning. i just intend for the book... for the desk... >> rose: why is there one key that will unlock something very special. >> which we can't give away. but i didn't know that that desk would begin to move to the novel. i simply wrote a short story, published it, thought that was the end of it and couldn't stop thinking about that story and so i revisited it and i opened that story back up. at the same time, i began to write other stories and the desk to my surprise showed up in another story and then another. but i should say and let anyone who might read this book know that the desk doesn't connect all the stories. i think jacket copies suggest that it has but it doesn't connect them all. it's one of these echoes.
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>> rose: you've sort of reflected on this but you have said novels are a structural blueprint of the neckisim ins of... and so what do i learn about the structural blueprint of your mind? >> that i like to create a lot of kay i don't say. a lot of various kinds of stories and different ways of telling stories and out of that nothing gives me more pleasure because of the coherence in it all. when i'm writing for a good year and a half, i have absolutely no sense of how these stories will connect. i only believe they will and sense they will. >> rose: a year and a half you have these four different stories in your mind. >> yeah. >> rose: and you're writing a novel and you do not know how these stories will connect? >> no, and more than that... >> rose: how do you find that? >> slowly, piece by piece. for example in that story, when i returned to it, the first thing i did was look for two words in the story, and the two
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words were "your honor." now, with those two words in a way that voice came to life, that character, nadia, came to life. they're now almost the first words of the book. and i knew in that moment that nadia, who was teaching this writer, that she was filled with guilt, that she was to confess herself, that she was trying to unburden herself, to expose herself in some way. that she needed to be heard. i didn't know who that judge was i didn't know if he was an official judge, if she was in a courtroom, where she was. i simply knew that about it. and it took me pages and pages, not quite as many pages as the reader who only finds out maybe three quarters of the way through who your honor is. who's she's addressing. it took me a long time and i had to believe that somehow i would figure that out. >> rose: how did this person who was an intern on this program for two weeks in 1995 become the novelist she is today? >> that's a question i don't know how to answer. i wanted so much always from a
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very young age to be a writer. i wanted to be a poet as i mentioned. and at some point that interest shifted. one day when i was 25, i don't know maybe five years after an an intern on the show i was living in new york city, i had come back from graduate school at oxford, come back to new york and i felt let's try this thing, this novel thing. i mean, i've read so many of them, i wonder if i could write one. and i found within the first pages of writing "man walks into a room" that i loved the form of the novel. i loved the feeling of this long project. in a way the messiness of it. describing the process as well, this sense of not knowing, the uncertainty of it. and also the sense that the novel by necessity, by definition, i think, is imperfect. it always has shortcomings. we can't really say more about what a novel is. but i... it gives the writer
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tremendous opportunity privilege to redefine the form every time she sitting down to write. >> rose: back to my question of how you went from here to here. you went through poetry and i love the story of you... was it joseph brodsky doing a lecture and you wanted him to look at some poems you had written. >> yeah. >> rose: and lo and behold... >> brazenly, yes. >> rose: brazenly. and lo and behold the next day he goes over for a number of hours with you about the art of writing poetry. >> yeah and that meeting had such a tremendous impact on me for so many reasons. to begin with, he told me what to read. i had just turned 18 years old. i don't know what i was reading. probably trash and he told me "read the beginning of herbert" who is a polish poet who has guided what kind of writer i wish to be.
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and also just a sense of how serious a product of writing should be. if i am forced to have just one favorite writer, my desert island writer i think it would be becket. >> rose: why? >> well, his plays of course, a work like "end game" is the closest thing to a perfect work of art i can think of. but his novels. i've never known a writer who's made so much of the human condition and at the same time incredible humor incredible lightness of touch and on the one hand there's an exuberance to them. how do you have those two things together? >> someone said this about you now is that you have enormously good spatial sense.
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what does that mine? >> well, in a small way it means i never lose my way in a small city and the personal in my family who knows where everybody has dropped their keys or put their had. >> rose: you know where things are? >> i have the memory for that. what it means in my work i think... i think it's some key strangely. my father started out as a structural engineer and now he's an orthopedic surgeon. it seems genetic... >> rose: went from an engineer to an orthopedic surgeen? >> you should have him on the show. >> rose: indeed i should. it guides me as a writer and how i put parts of novels together. i think of novels of houses, like in an accident that this novel became... >> rose: and you're building rooms. >> i'm building rooms, building from the inside so that it's almost like this intuitive way of writing. here's the doorknob, but now i need a door so i build a door
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but i have to open the door. now i have to build the whole room and another room and another room. slowly, slowly, years into writing a book as i'm backing away i suddenly see what the hole house looks like. >> rose: have you read the plays of harold pinter? >> i have, of course. i've seen him perform, too. >> rose: does that have an influence on you? >> i don't think he's had an influence. i'd love to claim... >> rose: well he and beckett were friends? >> i like him. but i guess he's not one of mine. you know what i mean? >> rose: you've also said that writing is like... how would you say? writing is system to excavation. >> yeah. the other day it wasn't very long ago i read about a paleontologist. they walk over the same bit of land because they have the sense for whatever reason. and their instinct is right and they dig and unearth an entire dinosaur fossil.
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and i feel that writing is a bit like that. for me, at least, that i'm pursuing these accidents and intuitions and if those intuitions were right i unearth something that was before a complete mystery to me. >> rose: you also said in that series of interviews i read that someone said to you that the writing process doesn't get any better. meaning there is no silver bullet. >> yeah. that was philip roth who said that to me. i was lucky enough to meet with him and i was having such a hard time getting my thoughts around and i still haven't gotten used to that and i remember he walked into the cafe and the first thing he said was "you spent all day, how does do you write a snovl" and he has 28 or 29 novels under his belt and it just seemed so at one time
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terrifying and the same time such a relief that someone such a... so fine at what he does, such a great writer who is still somehow... it never gets easier. and i remember when i left that meeting he said to me "resign yourself to this." >> rose: what do you love most about it. >> i love the freedom it affords me. i've never found freedom like that anywhere else in my life. this chance every time i sit down to write, i become anyone. literature as a reader and a writer. i see that chance but i don't know. to feel what it is to be another person to get inside that mind. i love that. and i love how it's freedom to become something. writing kneel gersky, for example, in "the history of love" he's an old man.
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how did you write an old man or get into his head and i say i feel like i'm him. and he's me. it gave me a chance to say things about myself, about life that i couldn't otherwise have said. >> rose: great to have you here. >> thank you. >> rose: nicole krauss, the book is called "great house." every critic that i know has written with great enthusiasm for the things we have been talking about. but also for the pictures and the portraits and the characters and the connections that she paints for us. thank you very much. >> thank you. florian henckel von donnersmarck is here. his first film "the lives of others" won an oscar in 2007 for best foreign film. senate east germany before the wall fell, it showed what constant surveillance by the state did to the lives of those spied upon as well as those who did the spying. for his second act, the german
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writer/director made a different kind of film called "the tourist" set in the glamourous backdrop of venice, the film stars angelina jolie and johnny depp. here's the trailer for the film. >> it all started when i met a woman on the train. >> i'm elise. >> i'm frank. >> that's a terrible name. >> it's the only one i've got. >> maybe we can find you another. >> okay. i have a strange feeling that those two people over there are watching us. >> i think you're right! >> really? >> (laughs) no. frank! come with me. elise ward and husband. >> you're ravenous. >> do you mean ravishing? >> i do.
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>> all right, grab him. >> mellow? i need help. there are two men trying to break down the door. >> what kind of problem do you have with the door, sir. >> no, there are two men with guns trying to break in. i've got go! why is everyone trying to kill me? >> alexander pierce stole big money from a gangster. they think you are him. >> the man's a criminal wanted in 14 countries. >> you've gone too far. you were part of a plan. >> this is exactly why she chose him, to distract us. >> i am sorry i got you involved in all of this. >> why are you involved? you know he will be with us. elise! you wish to report a murder. >> attempted murder. >> that's not so serious. >> not when you're downgraded
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for murder but when you're upgraded from room service it's quite serious. : i don't regret it, you know, kissing you. >> rose: i am pleased to have florian henckel von donnersmarck back at this table. >> welcome. >> very pleased to be back, thank you. >> rose: good to see you. so after you made "the lives of others" where was your head? what did you want to do and how do you end up where you are today having just been... having just completed a film? >> well, my life changed drastically after the academy awards and, you know, maybe even before with the success of "the lives of others." it was just... one year i was shopping this film around everywhere and nobody wanted to buy it and then i tried to submit it to various festivals and not even festivals wanted it. they felt it was too touchy a subject and then one year later
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i'm on the stage at the kodak theater accepting an academy award everyday i get invitations to event that just a year before would have been the high point of my life and it was... and i'm being sent more scripts than i can read. it created a kind of blissful confusion that after a while, after spending about a year i'd say reading scripts i just said okay i can't do that anymore. i just to concentrate on writing and then i started researching a topic that's very important to me and i think that was the topic of suicide which is something that i've just encountered in people i know and in friends over the years and when i started researching that i just saw that it was a huge
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phenomena in society and more than a million people every year kill themselves and more than 20 million attempt suicide and i can't even count the number of people who probably live with suicidal ideation on a daily basis. so after i spent so much time researching this incredibly dark topic and had written a screenplay about this dark socialogical phenomenon of suicide, this... reading this screenplay somehow put me into a good mood and i thought that, you know maybe it would have that same effect also on just an audience seeing it. 99% of people have a harder life than i do and i would want them to just also have this as an opportunity to somehow escape into a world where, of course, there's danger and suspense and all that but in the end things will be all right. >> rose: angelina sent you the script? >> that's right. actually, she calls me and says
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"i'm sending over a script, you're probably not going to like it but if you want to rewrite it, make it your own, i know we can turn this into something." then i read it, i saw exactly what attracted her about it. >> rose: what was that? >> you know, it was something that... it kind of represented the spirit of what i think made us fall in love with the idea of hollywood. i think if we see those letters on the hollywood hills and our heart races a little bit faster it's not so much because of films about cars that morph into robots. it's because of a kind of glorious larger-than-life presentation some great actors in beautiful settings of lightness and joy. that's what i've always admired about... >> rose: this is also like hitch sdmok >> i think hitchcock is like
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that. if you look at some of his films you know, if you look at something like "to catch a thief" for example, which is a film that i always really loved, it's everything at the same time. it's sexy and it's funny and suspenseable, all those elements combined and it was a kind of tone we were looking for. >> rose: i'm sure you already knew this, but there was a film made in... a french anymore 2004. >> i didn't watch that film because i didn't want to have images in my head and angelina had the same thing, we just said let's not watch it because there was an interesting idea in it. but if remakes are something that are truly remakes where you take the images and try to make them bigger and glossier, that's not really the intention so we took the idea and built it into something we grew together. >> rose: what's the idea?
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>> the idea is just... well, basically what it's supposed to feel like is just like the perfect european holiday that you get to take with these two fantastically attractive people. >> rose: so you've got angelina jolie. >> uh-huh. >> rose: you've got a studio backing. >> uh-huh. >> rose: you need a huge male star. >> yes. >> rose: how do you get johnny depp? >> the thing is i am a great fan of angelinas and had watched all her films. the interesting thing is even though i know her films quite well i don't actually remember who the male co-stars were because she never has an in... she has an incredibly strong presence so i have to force my
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memory to remember who shed played with. >> rose: the one exception may be her husband brad pitt. >> that's true. but since that will be done before i thought i really want somebody who is just charismatic as she is but in a completely different way. so i thought who's the actor that i admire most and that really everybody admires most and that's johnny depp. >> rose: so you pick up the phone... >> i thought it would take about a year to get an audience, luckily our producer graham king knew him very well and it took about a few days and i was sitting in his office in west hollywood and presented to him what i thought this part could be and as i was in his office the part started changing because he has such an incredible sense of humor and he just makes made me laugh so much
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while i was presenting this story to him that in my head i was rewriting it to have more comedy to bring that into the film and at the end of the... at theened of our conversation he said "i'll do it but we have to do it pretty much now because as of late may i'm captain jack sparrow again." >> rose: go to the second clip. here's the clip. >> what brings you to venice? >> you read spy novels, i'm a mysterious woman on a train. you tell me what my story is. >> okay. i think you'd be a diplomatic attache or maybe a girl from east germany whose father's been kidnapped and they're blackmailing you into stealing something for them.
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probably microfilm, it's usually microfilm involved. >> what awaits me? >> trouble, certainly. >> danger? >> oh, yeah, we'll most likely be shot at in less than two chapters. >> is there a man in my life? >> i guess we'll wait and see. >> rose: so there they are. how do they work together? >> incredibly well. i mean, they had really... they have very different ways of approaching a scene. angelina's incredibly prepared and comes with a lot of good ideas and is very creative. she just directed a film herself right after we finished wrapping she went to budapest and directed her own film. >> rose: a history of the people in serbia is it? >> i think so. and johnny has a very different way of approaching it. he doesn't even read the stage directions.
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he just learns the dialogue very well but doesn't read the stage directions because he just wants to discover fresh what the character does. then he improvises a lot. you can't lose the impizations because they're incredibly funny but very, very obscene and it was very interesting to see two acting styles come together. >> here's the cover of "vanity fair" magazine. patti smith meets johnny depp photoed by annie liebovitz. what is it as an actor and as... >> that's very interesting. i think apart from the fact that he's a very accomplished actor, he has a quality... i was just thinking about that yesterday. it is impossible not to love him. he's so very easy to love and i think that that's... that makes me as a viewer always feel very
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grateful. sometimes it's hard to get into a frame of mind where you can love someone and he's a teacher of love in some way. so he makes it so easy for us to access that feeling and that's also why i wanted someone to show more of him in this... in this film. when i had that first meeting with him i didn't know what to expect. i only know his various screen persona and he... he was mysterious to me. so i didn't know what was he going to be like and was he going to be like captain jack sparrow or ed wood? was he the mad hatter or the demon of fleet street? so just getting to know him and seeing what incredibly just sharming immensely lovable and
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funny person person he is, i just wanted to bring that to the screen and allow the camera to spend a little more time with him so that we'd go out of this film not feeling hungry not want to see him. >> rose: the movie is an extraordinary collection of other characters. >> uh-huh. >> rose: tell me about how you went about the casting. paul betny and... >> paul bettany is an actor i've admired since i saw him in "first knight" with heath ledger and i found he acts like a catalyst in every film. if you look at "beautiful mind "or "master and commander" he just raises everybody's game because he's incredibly good and an unbelievably precise actor. and so i... and i feel that supporting characters for me, that doesn't exist.
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it's more like there are character with whom you spend less time but i have the feeling if you turn the camera towards them you can tell the entire film just about them and so in the same way when our villain, for example, stevenbergoff who i admired so much as a child in "beverly hills cop" and i remember when i was living in brussels as... a few years later suddenly there were posters all over town with his picture and he was playing kafka's transformation, metamorphosis, i think it was called and i thought it was so impressive that somebody could do this really amazing theater in the same way that he could do this very popular film "beverly hills cop" so i knew if i ever made a film in hollywood i would want him as a villain. >> finally the tone of the film. this has hitchcock.
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you mentioned you wanted to show the lives of people who had a certain elegance about them that we identify with elegance or certainly a style. what's the tone? >> the stone is one where... you know, since ied that two most beautiful and thrilling people, i can think of at least screen people i wanted the settings to be just as glorious and i thought one what are the two most amazing places and to me that's paris and venice and they're places i know well because there are times i spent there as a child and i just wanted everything to be in that world of perfect beauty so we spent a lot of time getting the costumes and the setting just right so it would feel like
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somehow just a luxurious experience of soaring through this world of perfect beauty "the tourist opens in theaters den 10. >> thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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